• Palace: Obama visit to boost Philippine-US defense partnership

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    Malacanang on Sunday said it expects the Oct. 11-13 visit of US President Barack Obama to the Philippines to be “fruitful.”
    Obama will be the first US president to visit the country since George W. Bush made a nine-hour stop in Manila in October 2003.

    Obama’s visit will be capped by a meeting with President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
    “We’re hoping that this visit will be very fruitful in strengthening our relations [with the]United States,” Strategic Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang said.

    Carandang said the discussions between the two leaders will cover not just the strategic partnership in defense but also the economic and trade ties between
    the two nations.
    Obama’s visit comes as the two countries negotiate an agreement that will allow increased rotational presence of American troops in the Philippines, and give them wider access to the country’s military bases.

    It also comes amid tension between the Philippines and China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
    Carandang said the territorial dispute with China may be taken up as part of talks to enhance the country’s maritime security.
    The South China Sea disputes “is one of the biggest issues confronting not only the Philippines but Vietnam, Malaysia, even Indonesia, Brunei, and even Japan, as well. So it needs to be taken up,” he added.
    Carandang said there was no rush in negotiating the rotational presence of US troops in the country.
    “These discussions have been going on for several months—if I’m not mistaken,
    over a year now. And we are making slow but steady progress on the rotational presence,” he said.
    “Whether or not we will sign something during the Obama visit is not something I can answer at this point. What I can assure our countrymen is that [the]discussions with the US will lead to enhanced security for the Philippines and that’s why we’re entering into these discussions,” Carandang said.

    CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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